I confess; I run red lights, but I hardly ever go it alone. When turning left across traffic, I’m usually only one of a herd of cars stuck in the intersection when the light turns red. Even then I sometimes wait for someone running the red light before I can move out of everyone’s way.
My sitting in the intersection during a red light, however short it is, creates a domino effect that fans the flame for blatant red light running. The time I spend in the intersection during a red light only wastes the green light of the oncoming traffic. This gets less people through during the light cycle, clogging the roads and infuriating drivers.
Tampa Bay needs longer yellow lights. This would get more drivers through the intersection per light cycle, especially at lights with no left turn signal. It would add only two or three seconds to the duration of the red light for the opposing traffic. Also, many yellow lights in the area do not provide drivers enough time to stop before the light turns red. We all know how slick the roads can be when it rains, making it even harder to stop for a short yellow light. There is simply not enough time for drivers to stop without fear of sliding through the intersection or getting in a collision.
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program together with the U.S. Department of Transportation has put out an informational booklet with suggestions for safer intersections. ‘Traffic signal retiming is one of the most cost effective ways to improve traffic flow and is one of the most basic strategies to help mitigate congestion.’
The D.O.T. has even said these optimizations could save drivers forty dollars in gas and lost time for every one dollar spent on retiming. Federal funding can be obtained for the project. It costs anywhere from 500 to 3,000 dollars to retime an intersection. Compare that to 55,000 dollars for just one red light camera. The amount of lives it could save is priceless.
Hillsborough County needs to stop red light runners at the line, not after they’ve run the light. Retiming the lights alleviates congestion and driver frustrations, making them less likely to run the light in the first place. Longer yellow lights mean less wasted green lights and more cars through in a light cycle. Drivers should contact the Florida Department of Transportation and demand a change.